When I was growing up, my dad was my hero. Sure, when you’re a kid, everything your parents do is larger than life. But my father was different. As the owner of a few supermarkets, I witnessed first-hand how he grew both his family and his small business.
As I’ve gotten older and further along in my career, the lessons my father taught me in my formative years have become more relevant and critical. Seeing how he runs and grows his business has taught me three important things:
- Why it’s important to know your customer
- Why you should treat your employees like family
- Why you find passion in your work
Whether you’re operating a supermarket or a startup, I think these lessons from my father are universal:
Know Your Customer
My family lives in a very diverse neighborhood. Before my dad opened his first supermarket, he did a lot of research. He learned about stocking and logistics. When the store door first opened, it was already built with love and best practices. But he quickly learned that his customers had different buying habits than some of the other stores he had researched. In order for his store to be successful, he had to adapt to his customer.
A good business owner knows the customer. My dad reached out to his community and learned what they wanted from their neighborhood store. For example, he saw that certain brands of athletic shoes were very popular. For Christmas, instead of just stocking ornaments, my dad stocked Nikes. My dad also knew the post office was far away. So he added stamps to his inventory to prevent his customers from going out of their way.
The best businesses know their customers intimately. My dad’s supermarket was successful because he listened to his customers and adapted. When he opened his second store, he didn’t just copy exactly what he did in the first. He connected with his community to see what they wanted. It’s such an important lesson, even large chains like Whole Foods are going local. Of course, I’m not sure if they can compete with my dad!
Treat Your Employees Like Family
My dad has always treated his employees like family. The joke here is that many of us helped out in the store, so some of his employees were literally family. But the lesson isn’t to hire your nieces and nephews. Rather, one of the most important things my father taught me about team building was building trust.
A supermarket is a cash business. Not only are checkout attendees handling a lot of cash on a daily basis, having a healthy cash flow is important for all the inventory that comes in and out of the store. Over time, my father built a deep level of trust with his employees so that he felt comfortable with them handling cash.
He did this by helping out his employees in times of need. For example, when his employee’s mother got sick, my dad let him borrow his car every day to drive his mother to a clinic that was 30 minutes away. The best part was that my dad didn’t have any expectations when he offered his help. It came from the heart. He cared about the well-being of his employees and their families. In return, his employees treated him like family.
How does building trust impact your business? For one, it helps your team become more efficient and productive. By trusting his employees to handle cash, my dad didn’t need to hire extra senior managers or create complicated processes and permissions. That is how I like to work with my team. When we have transparent communication, we spend less time optimizing for how things should “look” and more time optimizing for how things should “work.”
Find passion in your work
We’re called Gusto because we believe in a work environment where everyone works with Gusto. This name was inspired by our small business customers. They operate and grow their businesses with passion, with love, with gusto! My dad is the same. His business not only provides his livelihood, it is his livelihood. He loves going to work every day and serving his community. I know for many SCORE members, this also rings true.
At Gusto, we believe that every business has the potential to be the best place to work for their employees. We spend so much of our life at work, so it’s important you value the work and feel valued at work. For my dad, knowing his customers and treating his employees like family is his passion. The job isn’t easy, but it’s the one he picked. That gives him gusto.